A Day at the Charleston International Film Festival: A Look back

By Mary Kiser

The Charleston Music Hall served as a venue to the 9th annual season of the Charleston International Film Festival. The total sixty-five films were separated into blocks throughout Nov. 2nd-6th, but any information about the shorts, features, and documentaries are on the website. That Saturday’s Block 5 showed seven pictures that ran for ninety minutes, and after the curtain call, people rose from their chairs, stretched their limbs, and wandered into the nooks and crannies of Downtown Charleston. Before dessert, I met with a couple directors to learn about their setbacks, achievements, and inspirations.

Test Drive (2 minutes)

American Director Jim Ford based this piece on the principle of authenticity. His visceral representation of a salesman and his client crashed together the fast and the humorous. Stuntman John Vincent Mason drove his vehicle into disaster before announcing, “I’ll take it!” to the stunned onlooker. While this film is shorter than a bathroom break, location derailed Ford for six months. Liability from the wreck generated opposition, and scouts scrambled for locality. A sexagenarian offered her Massachusetts farm in exchange for one bottle of Malibu, and her thirst for rum saved this production from a blowout. Test Drive is not caged, cut, or edited, and the stripped scenes leave the piece with more than just a broken fender captured on-camera. This short is a protest against the humdrum, and Ford and Mason will collide again for the 2017 Hollywood blockbuster Live by Night. Mason doubled as actor Jake Gyllenhaal in certain clips, and Ford offered his services as a seasoned director with over a decade of exposure. Watch the trailer to learn more about this illicit drama.

Barry (10 minutes)

American Director Matthew Graves killed the production with his short about requited love. A man awoke from life to find himself dead underground. His only accompanied treasure is a golden locket with a picture of his wife on the inside. Mimicking a nervous twitch, he gazed at her face every time he heard noises from above. The continuous rumbling startled this man until he lost his possession to an inconvenient hole in his coffin. With only stale air and a blue bottle, he almost unraveled. The clamor grew louder and louder until a random hand broke through dirt and decay to find his. Her palm revealed a golden locket with his picture on the inside, and the man sighed with relief. He gripped his wife’s hand, and they both rested in eternity. Graves and his crew completed the film inside a college dorm within a time limit of two days. He channeled his fascinations with movies like Halloween, entertainment studios like Pixar, and legends like Tim Burton to reel a twist on the quintessential cliché, “Love conquers all.”

The Charleston International Film Festival stemmed from co-founders Summer and Brian Peacher. They moved from Los Angeles, California, to Charleston, South Carolina, because her husband’s hometown resembles a miniature New York City. The thought of fried okra, sweet tea, walking tours, and performing arts are mouthwatering enough, and the Charleston International Film Festival always has a seat for the unconventional Charlestonian. Unlike Redbox movies and mainstream media, this non-profit organization encourages the eccentric, embraces the weird and disavows tradition. Inside the auditorium, viewers can feel the homey vibe. Even though there are opportunities to meet renowned directors and staff, the intimate atmosphere mirrors the warmth of home videos versus the seclusion of empty, isolated picture palaces.